In which a recruit’s name is plugged into Google and the bits of information that trickle out–guru ratings, newspaper profiles, YouTube highlights, all that stuff–are synthesized in the hopes of getting a clearer picture of the player we’ll see at Auburn next fall. Previously: Jessel Curry, Craig Sanders, Roszell Gayden, Brandon Mosley, Demetruce McNeal, Jake Holland, Shaun Kitchens, Cody Parkey, and Cameron Newton.
It’s about time we got one of these guys. After years of watching LSU clean up with Lafleurs and Babineauxs and Chabauds and Heberts, I’ve long wanted Auburn to steal away one of those Cajun football players whose game somehow managed to match their wonderful French bayou name. Phillip Pierre-Louis was a decent enough start, but still … we needed the genuine article.
So I’m thrilled to tell you that Auburn will feature one of those genuine articles at defensive end this season: Mr. Joel Bonomolo, straight out of Metairie, Louisiana.
Well, OK, not straight out of: he spent two years at a California JUCO. But close enough for our purposes, right?
BASICS: The usual collection of information via the Auburn Signing Day bio sheet:
DE, 6-3, 245
Metairie, LA (Fullerton Community College/Archbishop Rummel HS)
JUNIOR COLLEGE: Listed at No. 40 in the SuperPrep Juco 100 … As a freshman in 2008, had 41 tackles (24 solo), 17 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks … Was a second-team All-National Southern Conference selection … Played in just five games as a sophomore, totaling 13 tackles including five tackles for loss and three sacks.
HIGH SCHOOL: As a senior, named honorable mention All-State, All-District MVP and All-Metro after recording 17 sacks … Also an All-District selection as a junior … Received team’s Ironman award for weightlifting.
Scale of 1-10, how surprised I am by the weightlifting nugget given the photo that leads off the post? .1267.
Also worth noting how productive Bonomolo was at Fullerton: I know it’s just JUCO, but 12.5 sacks and 22 TFLs in just 17 career games ain’t shabby. That 2008 Fullerton team was pretty good, too, going 10-2 and winning the National Southern Conference championship. (Why a JUCO conference composed exclusively of California schools felt th eneed to include “National” in its title, I’m not sure.)
Rivals lists his 40 time as 4.65, for what that’s worth.
RECRUITNIK HOO-HA: Usually, the Google survey of JUCO players includes two sets of ratings: one coming out of high school, one coming out of JUCO. Not this time.
Despite those All-District MVP honors, Bonomolo was a recruiting nonentity upon graduation at Archbishop Rummel. No Rivals or Scout profile from 2006 (Bonomolo sat out 2007), and since ESPN doesn’t re-rank JUCOs, no profile from them at all. So we’ll just deal with the current Rivals and Scout evaluations, which fortunately are fairly positive. Scout gives him three stars and list him as the No. 6 JUCO DE (a pretty distant sixth, admittedly). They write:
As a freshman last season for Fullerton Bonomolo had a huge season from his defensive end spot. He finished with 65 tackles, 18 tackles for losses and 12 ½ sacks using his speed and quickness off the ball.
That wasn’t all that helpful as a scouting report, I guess, but … why are these stats different from Auburn’s? Were Auburn’s regular-season only or something? You may want to add 3 sacks to the totals above. (This is all extremely important.)
Rivals is more enthusiastic, giving Bonomolo four stars and ranking him the No. 29 JUCO player in his class. We’ll take it, though I feel obligated to note that Scout’s JUCO evaluations tend to be a little more accurate in my mind.
As you might expect given that Bonomolo waited to blow up until he hit the West coast, most of Bonomolo’s offers were from western schools: Arizona, Arizona St., Utah, Washington, San Diego St. And, uh, USC? P-Marsh reported that Kiffykins made a late push for Bonomolo which he gave the brush-off. Take with a grain of salt, but it’s out there.
LINKS OF POTENTIAL INTEREST
Highlights ahoy! Watch your audio, though:
That was fun.
This NewOrleans.com piece does a good job of explaining how Bonomolo went from non-qualifying Saluki to JUCO hottness:
In spite of recording 17 sacks for the Raiders as a senior, the only solid scholarship offer forthcoming was from Southern Illinois. The FBS-level Salukis were stunned that they were the only suitors. Georgia Tech, ULL and UL-Monroe briefly inquired about his services.
“I went on a recruiting trip to Southern Illinois,” Bonomolo said, “but my ACT score was low. I didn’t qualify.”
With the support of his parents and under the tutelage of fitness guru, Wyatt Harris of Sonic Boom, Joel investigated alternative options.
“I sat out of football (2007),” he said. “I didn’t know where to go. I didn’t know much about Junior Colleges.”
Bonomolo went to work on a life away from the gridiron, enrolling in Delgado Community College for the fall of ’07, taking 9 units. “I was determined to play again. I looked into Junior Colleges in Mississippi, California and Arizona. Wyatt (Harris) told me that JUCO would be a good thing” …
Under the guidance of Wyatt Harris, Joel began restructure his body and reshape his life. Admittedly a little overweight during his days at Rummel, Bonomolo dropped 12 pounds (down to 243) and lowered his body fat ratio to under 10% (on a 6’3 ½ inch frame). His work ethic clearly changed. “I do not like to take a break,” he smiled. “I don’t want anyone to catch me. I want to outwork everyone” …
Trainer and confidant Harris trains some elite athletes, including many NFL players. And he sees some special qualities in Bonomolo.
“No one is as proportionate (weight, strength, lower body, middle body, upper body) as Joel is. You won’t see ANY player as football fast as he is,” Wyatt barks. “He can play any position. No one with shoulder pads on a football field is any faster. He can play running back or safety.”
That’s … that’s good news. Bonomolo’s grades also took a big upward spike at Fullerton. As for the claim that Harris (also based out of Metairie) has worked with NFL players, it wasn’t supervising that one workout for that Falcons’ practice squad guy; two of the Saints’ Super Bowl receivers are satisfied Sonic Boom clients. There’s a lot more here. Harris seems legit … if, you know, a little on the hyperbolioc side.
Cool, Fullerton has its own student paper. And a story on their signees:
“The main thing that made me choose Auburn was the opportunity,” Bonomolo said. “I expect to get there and make an impact like I did at Fullerton College. My main goal is to get to the NFL and I think that by going to Auburn I will have a good chance of doing that.”
Let’s hope so. More on his decision and a coach quote in this story from nola.com:
“Auburn knew they wanted me. That’s why I committed to them,’’ Bonomolo said Friday via telephone from California where he is preparing for his second and final year at FullertonCommunity College. “The No. 1 thing was the coaches. The second thing was the opportunity. I’ve always wanted to play in the SEC. When I visited, I just knew it was the place for me. I could feel it”…
At Auburn, Bonomolo likely projects as a defensive end although that is still to be determined.
“It depends,’’ Bonomolo said. “(Auburn coaches) said they want to wait till I get there and see how I play, see how my feet are. I can play with my hand in the dirt. I can play standing up. I can play wherever. It doesn’t bother me, wherever I can help the team.’’
“Joel was a hard-nosed defensive end, a tough and nasty player, the kind of guy you want on your football team,’’ Rummel Coach Jay Roth said. “He was just a little under-sized as a senior and needed to get qualified. He worked hard to do so and now he’s going to play football in the SEC.’’
Hard to see Bonomolo winding up anywhere but DE, but I guess it’s within the realm of possibility that Roof gets desperate at linebacker and Bonomolo spends his redshirt year becoming a rush-specialist OLB. It’s even more snugly within said realm if the 3-4 speculation is more than passing spring fancy.
Still very, very unlikely, I would guess.
WHAT CONCLUSIONS WE CAN DRAW, IF ANY
I’ll admit that a couple of things give me a bit of pause when it comes to Bonomolo. That an LSU program he made no secret of his desire for an offer from took a look and passed. That Scout isn’t that high on him. That every bit of scouting we have emphasizes his speed, speed, speed; it’s still to-be-determined how well he’d hold up against the run. That his transformation from Southern Illinois recruit to JUCO stud seemed to happen so quickly; Harris may know what he’s doing, but did Bonomolo ever have the technical foundation he’d need to step in and play right away at Auburn? It’s one thing to bulk up and simply blow past tackles and hunt down quarterbacks in California JUCO, but it’s another to do it in the SEC.
For all of that, though, there are still far more positives than there are negatives. For starters, no one’s going to question his motor; did you see the highlight from the clip above where he tracked back a good 50 yards to tackle a runaway back after a screen? If Bonomolo’s got the on-field motor and off-field work ethic we want–and both that play and his grind from afterthought to Auburn/Pac-10 recruit suggest he does–then Tracy Rocker will find a way to make him a productive player.
On top of that, I don’t think there’s much doubting his speed; dude should be a quality third-down rush specialist, at the least. And most importantly, Auburn’s coaches looked at him and liked what they saw, liked it enough to bring him aboard in the middle of last summer. So far this staff’s already put together a solid track record with JUCOs–Washington, Fairley, Newton, quite possibly Mosley. If they’re sold, we should be sold as well.
So if Bonomolo’s not a lock the way Newton or even Fairley was, he’s something. The expectation here is that he finds his way onto the field on third downs as soon as this fall and throughout 2011, with a starting position in ’11 very much a possibility.